Blasts Hit Syrian Government Targets as UN Agreement Falters

Blasts Hit Syrian Government Targets as UN Agreement Falters
A woman walks past the central bank building decorated with a banner of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in this Feb. 28, 2012 file photo. Gunmen attacked the central bank today with rocket-propelled grenades, state television reported, causing no casualties. Photographer: Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

Attacks on the Syrian central bank in Damascus and three blasts in the northern city of Idlib killed at least eight people and injured many more, state television reported.

Syrian state television broadcast images of residential buildings and cars damaged by two Idlib explosions and a woman carrying a wounded boy. The blasts injured 100 people, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported, without saying where it got the information. A third blast struck near the office of the Popular Army in Idlib, Al Jazeera television reported, citing an unidentified activist.

Most of those killed in today’s attack in Idlib were members of the security forces, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. It put the death toll at 20 and said the attack targeted a security headquarters. Gunmen attacked the Syrian central bank in Damascus with rocket-propelled grenades, state television reported.

“There has been a shift in tactics targeting Damascus with suicide bombers and an increase of assassinations of intelligence officers,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said today in a phone interview. “We are continuing to move in a direction of a slow deterioration.”

Saudi Cabinet

The start of the April 12 cease-fire brokered by UN special envoy Kofi Annan has failed to halt more than a year of violence that started when peaceful protesters sought political change from President Bashar al-Assad’s government. More than 500 people have died since the cease-fire started, according to the website of the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group.

Saudi Arabia’s cabinet said the international community shouldn’t allow the Syrian authorities to “evade their obligations” under the UN peace agreement, the official Saudi Press Agency reported today, citing a government statement. The international community is giving the Syrian government time and that’s costing lives, the news service aid.

At least 28 people were killed by the security forces yesterday, the human rights observatory said. Nine more died today, Al Arabiya television reported.

Government forces continue to conduct raids and shell opposition forces in urban areas, while rebels have escalated their attacks against targets associated with the Assad administration. An explosion struck a pipeline transporting crude oil in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzour yesterday, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing oil ministry officials.

Heavy Weapons

The head of the UN monitoring force arrived in Damascus yesterday, Al Arabiya said, without saying how it got the information. The advance team of 15 UN observers has reported that the security forces are still deploying heavy weapons in populated areas, a violation of the UN agreement, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters on April 27.

If violence continues, the U.S. and its allies anticipate raising pressure on the government through travel bans, additional financial sanctions and an arms embargo at the UN Security Council, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week in Washington.

Nuland blamed Assad for the plan’s lack of success, citing attacks by government forces on civilians and the military’s failure to withdraw heavy weapons. She said it was essential to deploy as many as 300 unarmed UN cease-fire observers in the effort to limit the violence.

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